Celebrating both the traditional and modern African aesthetic is a balance Refiloe Khobane, founder and designer of 100% handcrafted contemporary African-inspired accessories brand Ovazania, has honed since its launch in 2016. We caught up with the Katlehong-raised and Australia-based graphic designer to find out more about her journey, inspiration and doing business abroad.
You studied film, so what led you to create jewellery and found Ovazania?
I have always had a passion for accessories, design, fashion, film and visual communication. After a brief career in film I went on to study graphic design, and later developed Ovazania out of an incessant need to create something of my own. I don’t have any formal training in jewellery-making, so it was quite literally taking a leap of faith and trying something new.
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Can you tell us about milestones you’ve achieved in the process of bringing Ovazania, and particularly the South African traditional aesthetic, to the global market?
The biggest milestone has been the reception to the brand, to the point where Ovazania is stocked in local boutiques in different states across Australia. As a black woman, I feel proud to have been able to create a product that not only celebrates my heritage but one that also contributes to the modern African aesthetic on a global scale while still upholding the timeless beauty of our traditional aesthetics.
How has the Australian market received the brand and are there plans to expand, geographically or product-wise?
The response has been overwhelmingly positive. I think people are drawn to the distinctive forms of the designs, which you don’t generally find here in the Australian market. I’d love to expand to more stores and customers in the US and London, across South Africa and generally in all the major cities in world. You have to dream BIG and Bold, right?
How has your heritage influenced your sense of design when creating Ovazania pieces?
Coming from South Africa, my heritage plays a significant role in the designs I create. The designs are heavily influenced by Ndebele geometric patterns, and in some of the styles you can see the inspiration from iziqhaza – the traditional Zulu earrings. I draw a lot of inspiration from the vast diversity of our cultural groups and I think that it translates into the bold colours and striking forms in the jewellery pieces.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by innovators, movers and shakers and people who go against the status quo to create and have a positive effect on the world through innovation, design, style, fashion, music, art and other creative mediums.
How do you go about naming each piece? Is there a story behind each one?
It’s a bit of a random process. Most of them are named for friends and family or people who have been instrumental in my life in one way or another. It’s a great advantage that our names are quite unique and beautiful with incredible meanings, so they just happen tie in perfectly with the pieces.
Your pieces are quite bold – who are they made for?
Ovazania is for modern women all around the world who love a blend of traditional and modern African aesthetics with a mixture of contemporary design. They are for women who appreciate something totally unique and carefully crafted.
Are you working on any projects or plans you’d like to share?
I have something very new and exciting that I am developing. It’s too soon to share at this stage, but I am working on the next phase of expanding the brand.
Where can people in SA get hold of your pieces?
Ovazania is now available at Palesa Mokubung’s Clothing Store at 27 Boxes in Melville, and also at Guillotine at 44 Stanley Ave, Milpark. You can also contact our South African distributor at Moipone Shai at firstname.lastname@example.org to place an order from anywhere in South Africa.